2017 Dorothy Wylie projects

March / April 2018   Comments

Institute’s grads point to ongoing benefits of developing their leadership skills

Since 2001, the Dorothy Wylie Health Leaders Institute (DWHLI) has been helping health-care professionals develop leadership skills that will make a difference in their workplace. A key feature of the training is that participants choose a team-based project they want to work on that also benefits their sponsor organization.

In 2017, organizations representing care delivery, government agencies, academia and professional associations supported participants in 29 projects related to acute care, public health, Indigenous health, education and mental health. The varied project goals included

  • improving relationships and the transfer of knowledge by increasing mentorship between experienced and novice ICU staff
  • helping staff members achieve a better work-life balance by standardizing time-off requests or shift trades and rotation changes
  • enhancing teamwork by helping RNs better understand LPN/RPN scope of practice.

The concreteness of DWHLI project goals is something sponsor organizations value because of their immediate benefit.

In 2017 the team from Niagara Health looked at how they might implement standardized processes for managers to ensure accountability for high-performance, quality health care — something supported by the organization’s third core value: achieving ambitious results. “We wanted to choose a project that would align with the hospital’s strategic initiatives and also be used in our everyday work,” recalls RN and clinical cardiology manager Toni Rogers.

After several discussions with managers and directors, team members created its Work on a Page project, a tool to standardize daily work elements and identify areas for improvement. The initial plan was to use the tool to improve patient flow. Along the way, however, the team saw other areas in need of standardization, such as the charge nurse role and daily bullet rounds. As RN and clinical manager Lisa Hildebrand notes, “we also wanted to ensure that work on the unit level was standardized regardless of, among other things, who was working or what day of the week it was.”

While project teams bring concrete results to their organization, team members are also transformed by the leadership skills they develop at DWHLI.

As Terence Hedley, RN and clinical informatics analyst at Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences, puts it, “the Dorothy Wylie experience has helped me look for new ways of approaching complex problems and feel more comfortable pushing the envelope.”

The 2017 project from Ontario Shores, a hospital for persons living with complex and serious mental illness, set out to address issues related to the response to patients who may be aggressive or at risk of becoming aggressive.

According to forensic RN Naveen Lobo, “the organization was looking for opportunities to enhance safety and provide greater support to staff members who may have experienced trauma after a Code White.” In addition, notes RN Christopher Kask, “our hospital has a strong recovery philosophy. So, while improving our responses we wanted to reduce their negative impact, thereby helping our patients in their recovery.”

With the support of senior management, the team developed two Code White scenarios based on their clinical experience in the geriatrics, forensics and neuropsychiatry units. The goals were to promote effective de-escalation strategies for patients during a crisis and to use best practice guidelines to build familiarity among front-line staff who have limited experience in such situations.

As a result of this work, staff members are now able to attend mock Code White training once each month. The sessions provide a safe environment for participants to develop their skills and learn more about the different roles staff must take on when a Code White occurs.

Perhaps the most appreciated aspect of DWHLI is that graduates continue to develop and apply what they’ve learned year after year.

The 2018 Dorothy Wylie program, Leading in Complex Environments: Finding the Courage to Lead, runs from May 22 to 25 at the BMO Institute for Learning in Toronto. For more information, visit healthleaders.ca.

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